What the Frack is all that about?

August 10, 2013

Fracking… what an unappealing term! Do you suppose the people who sit and think up words deliberately choose such unsexy descriptions when they know the actions are going to be contentious? GMO’s, genetically modified organisms, fracking, hydraulic fracturing, none of those combinations inspire you to read much further, let alone click links and learn more about them.

Photo Credit: Irish Environmental Network

I asked two teenage boys if they knew anything about fracking recently. The fact they’d clocked anything at all, that they knew it wasn’t a very environmentally friendly way of creating energy impressed me – they don’t just have their heads glued to gaming screens after all ūüėČ “it’s somehow connected to earth tremors harming wildlife.” ¬†They’re not wrong.

I first became aware of fracking about a year ago as Facebook updates started to appear in my newstream asking me to help to sign petitions to stop it. We’re so inundated with petitions and stories about fluoride in water, the decline in bee populations or seed ownership it’s easy to miss yet another. Fracking did catch my attention however and resulted in an early morning twitter ‘discussion’ with Hector √ď Eochag√°in¬†while he was presenting his morning RTE radio show. He was¬†in favour of it, applauding the potential employment possibilities¬†as it appeared that it would result in creating a lot of jobs in Leitrim.¬†

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Since then, things have quietened¬†down, permission hasn’t yet been granted to the oil companies to¬†begin fracking in Ireland but for our neighbours in the UK the
battle is on.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

In the usually quiet West Sussex village in Balcombe¬†locals are¬†demonstrating¬†against oil¬†companies who’ve started drilling in their community. Grandparents, children, teens and adults have been¬†quietly campaigning to try to stop their village becoming the¬†latest to be taken over by this destructive form¬†of energy drilling and the rows are becoming more heated. It seems¬†that the Parish Council raised no objections and that planners were¬†told to ignore protests despite the fact that over 85% of those¬†opposed it.¬†Err sorry, I thought our councils were elected to look out for and support us, I really must recycle those rose-tinted glasses ūüėČ

News sources have claimed that demonstrators have been¬†shipped in to cause disruption but if you look at the news reports,¬†and in particular YouTube clips¬†taken by the residents, you’ll see that the majority¬†seem to be ordinary folk concerned about the potential¬†contamination to their water supplies. Now the drilling has begun, people are travelling to offer their support to Balcombe residents and who can blame them? I’d like to know that if fracking were happening in fields close to me that I wasn’t alone wouldn’t you? But that doesn’t mean they’re “extremists”, more likely they’re people who aren’t frightened to show their support and that they care enough for others to make the effort.

Would you demonstrate? Never mind that Balcombe is another village, another country, this could be yours. Do you know what fracking is and why these people are worried?

The following¬†short video clip explains it very well, much better than I could,¬†but in short fracking is the process of extracting gasses¬†hydraulically from deep beneath the earth’s surface and Europe has¬†been targeted by the oil companies as a good source of energy. It¬†involves drilling a very deep hole, as much as 4 km deep, then¬†sand, water and various toxic chemicals are pumped into it under¬†high pressure which fractures the shale rock beneath, releasing¬†gasses that can be captured.

What’s the problem with fracking? Surely it’s a good¬†thing and will provide jobs for local communities as Hector¬†argued?

First of all fracking is not a clean energy source and it is a volatile one Рthere is real
cause for concern. William L Ellsworth recently published an article:

“In¬†addition to directly causing increased local seismic activity,¬†activities such as deep fluid injection may have other¬†ramifications related to earthquake¬†occurrence.”

and here are just¬†four more of many concerns…

  • Oil and chemical¬†companies that undertake the fracking pump between 80 – 800 tonnes¬†of toxic chemicals into the earth for every frack. Radioactive¬†elements are dislodged from deep underground and carried to the¬†surface. Some waste evaporates into the air, the rest is taken away¬†to waste facilities but the majority is left there.
  • Around 19 million litres water are¬†needed for each fracking operation throughout its life¬†at a time when we’re being asked to conserve and pay
    for our water.
  • Four hundred tanker trucks are needed to carry supplies to and from
    sites. That’s a lot of heavy traffic passing through the

If you¬†haven’t heard about Fracking yet, you may well do so in the near¬†future.¬†Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Oil and Gas Reserves¬†recently commented that there has not been enough research done¬†into it to allow it into Ireland but given the fight our¬†UK neighbours have on their hands, that the UK Prime Minister is shouting about its virtues, one can’t help but think it’s¬†only a matter of time.

Is all that evidence of bad environmental practice worth a few jobs? Are we not causing enough damage without adding to it? Have human beings now evolved to carry a self destruct button????? What the hell is going on? Why do we feel the need to continually contaminate the planet when there are cleaner alternatives?

If like me you’re concerned¬†about this controversial energy source, you can sign a petition here asking the Irish¬†government to keep it out of Ireland or support your¬†local anti-fracking group. For more information about events,¬†reports and local contact details, take a look at the Fracking Free Ireland Website. Though¬†really it’s not a case of “not on my doorstep”, it should be NOT AT ALL.


  • Reply Dr Hows Science Wows (@sciencewows) August 11, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Excellently written Dee and thanks for the petition link!

    • Reply greensideupveg August 11, 2013 at 10:53 am

      Thanks Naomi, hopefully lots will sign and keep fracking out of Ireland!

  • Reply Ed. August 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Very informative and easy to understand article even for a person who is completely unfamiliar with fracking. Well done, Dee! ūüėČ

    • Reply greensideupveg August 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Ed, always helpful to get feedback and hopefully it will encourage people to sign the petition and keep fracking out of Ireland ūüôā

  • Reply elainebutler August 11, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    you might find this report interesting. It’s about the experience of families living close to New York where fracking has been taking place.

    • Reply greensideupveg August 11, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Fantastic yet scary images Elaine. I don’t imagine for a minute how farmers would feel if they had to bottle feed their livestock and once the damage has been done there’s no going back. Thanks for sharing the link.

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  • Reply Annie Flowers August 19, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Thanks for spreading the word Dee

    • Reply greensideupveg August 19, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Anything to help inform Annie, it’s an important one.

  • Reply Wind Turbines ~ Not in My Back yard February 11, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    […] to oil and fossil fuels. What could be more natural than harnessing wind, far better that than¬†the awful practice of fracking¬†that‚Äôs going on elsewhere. The wind turbines won‚Äôt be in a field directly in front of us, […]

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